Foreclosure and Real Estate Short Sale Scams. Some people say it is human nature, but I believe that it is only a small portion of humans whose nature is to take advantage of other people. It is most unfortunate, and often times mind boggling, but no matter what situation you find yourself in, there will always be someone trying to weasel you out of something. When the real estate market went into the gutter, the swindling scum adapted like a virus and found new ways to take advantage of people in desperate and/or unfamiliar situations. And so, my fellow honest, good natured humans, please take note of the following and make sure you know a thing or two about a thing or two before some shmuck tries to make you pay him/her for their “services”.
Loan Modification Scammers
When the government and banks decided it would be helpful to attempt to modify home mortgages to reduce the frightening increase in foreclosures, it was almost overnight that “Loan Modifying Specialists” came into our lives. . “Loan Modifying Specialist” is just a stupid way of saying they’re loan modifying broker, but nonetheless, they can be very helpful. Banks have been so overwhelmed with people applying for loan modifications, that they are brutally slow in the process and the specialists can help speed things up by gathering all the information that the banks would need and can first determine if you qualify for a loan mod, and if so, can help push it through the bank’s system.
But there have been “Loan Modifying Specialists” who have charged fees upfront for people to see if they do or do not qualify for and then, like Billy Joe and Bobby Sue, take the money and run. As a result of such instances occurring, the Department of Real Estate issued a Consumer Alert that states, “You must be very careful if you are asked to pay for any of these services in advance, whether in cash, check or by charging your credit card. First, California Civil Code Section 2945, which regulates “foreclosure consultants”, forbid anyone who falls under the definition of a “foreclosure consultant”, as well as a real estate licensee, from collecting any advance fees for these types of services if a Notice of Default has been recorded against your property.” There are exceptions to this advance payment warning though. Lawyers are exempt as well as brokers who have been approved by the DRE to charge advance fees.
To be certain, check out the DRE’s list of acceptable companies that are charging some sort of payment in advance as well as companies that have been accused of and/or have refrain orders against them:
Advance Fee Agreement Listing
Desist and Refrain Orders and/or Accusations for Loan Modification Activities
This scam was attempted recently with a property that my boss, Carlos Aguilar had listed. It was a bank owned property that Carlos was in charge of marketing and selling. As a part of all residential real estate marketing, the property is listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which allows other agents to view the property. A feature of the MLS provides all agents with access to the lock box code for that property so that they can show the property to a client without the listing agent needing to be present. In other words, the listing agent keeps a key to the property in a combination lock box on the property and if someone has access to the MLS, they also have access to the keys in the lock box.
In this particular instance, an agent who had access to the MLS put an ad in Craigslist saying that they had a property for rent. The property, however, was not for rent. It was the bank owned property that was being listed by Team Aguilar. But this person decided that since they had access to the lock box, they could show the property as if they were the rental agent and perhaps get someone to put down a security deposit before they were gone and never heard from again. Thankfully, we were alerted to this scam by a responsible agent who saw that the listing was also listed on Craigslist as a rental and the authorities were notified.
How is this scam avoidable? It can be difficult to detect. If you are responding to a rental ad on Craigslist, before you sign a lease or put down a security deposit, check with a local and respectable real estate agent. Have them check the MLS and make sure the property is not for sale. Or you can check with a local title company and look at the ownership history.
Former Landlord Still Thinks Rent is Due
Like I’ve said before, if you are a renter and the property that you are living in has been foreclosed on, your landlord has no right to ask for your rent. After all, they no longer own that property; the bank does. I have heard tons of stories about how tenants are verbally attacked by their former landlords demanding that they pay their rent, when in actuality, the landlord no longer owns the property. It can be a rough situation, especially if in the past the tenants had a good relationship with the landlord. But despite how much they yell, beg, or plead, saying that the bank is wrong, the tenant does not owe a dime. Just make sure that the property has definitely gone into foreclosure before you hold up on making the payments.